Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why I will NOT be making my daughter's Valentine's Day Box ...

Back when I was in the sixth grade, many, many years ago, we had this bug project we were supposed to do for my science class. Basically, the directions asked us to go out into our backyards, collect a bunch of bugs, and then pin said bugs to a Styrofoam board alongside little tags that stated their family, genus, species ... whatever. Now, I was really grossed out by said bug project, so I played the "poor me" card, and my Mom and Dad did a great deal of the project for me. Down to finding a Praying Mantis and pinning it to my board for bonus points (I'm pretty sure that's against the rules of the universe these days, but they meant well).

You know what I remember that I learned doing this project? Nothing. Except maybe the fact that I got my parents to do it for me. I do remember my Dad sitting at the dining room table surrounded by Mason jars filled with chloroformed bugs while I stood idly by, twiddling my thumbs. Watching.

Fast forward about 30 years. Everyday, for about the last week, my Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and tumblr feeds have been filled with Valentine's Day boxes that look like they were created by Martha Stewart on steroids on speed. Now, I know for a fact that when a kid makes a Valentine's Day box, it sure as hell doesn't look like it was crafted by the Real Simple Art Department (see below).

Too many things these days have become a competition in which we, as parents, take the reins from our kids. We make tricked-out party treats/art-projects/cards/gifts/book reports/room-decorations/playroom-displays inspired by the latest pins. Everything has to look perfect. Like it fell out of the Pottery Barn Kids' Catalog.

But here's the thing. In doing that, we don't allow our kids to try and fail, to be proud of something they constructed with their own hands, to experience the joy that is struggling with and constructing something they imagined, to create their own creative spaces. As a college teacher, I can see the dangerous side effects of this; I have encountered more than a few young adults whose parents have done so much for them throughout their childhood and adolescent years that they find it difficult to think creatively on their own.

So, here's what I'm doing. I'm giving my kid a box. I'm putting a bunch of art stuff on the dining room table on top of a layer of newspaper. And I'm letting her go to town. I'll help her if she needs help, but I'll be the one standing idly by, twiddling my thumbs. Watching.

Kids need to learn how to do things on their own. Even when it comes to something as simple as the Valentine's Day Box. (PS Mom and Dad, I still want to say thanks for doing that bug project. That was just disgusting;).) A/J

Valentines Day Kids

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